Monday, 1 September 2014

Weekend musings: raised garden beds and soup making

Well, the weekend was busy. We have built a raised garden bed and I made lots of chicken bone broth.

A picture of the finished raised bed:



I already sowed some radish seeds, and will sow some carrot seeds as well for a late harvest before winter. After that, we have to be patient and start properly next spring!

The weather was autumnal, and so in between the burst of sunshine we had thunderstorms and lots of wind and rain. Perfect weather for nice warm soup!

I always save chicken carcasses and I freeze them until I have enough for two large pots of broth.

Here's a simple and delicious recipe for chicken bone broth that I think is failsafe:

Ingredients:

Chicken carcass and bones, enough to fill 2/3 of a large soup pot.
good splash of organic apple cider vinegar, unfiltered
1 onion, outer dirt removed, quartered
1 large clove of garlic, cut in half
celery root, leaves and stalk, roughly chopped
whatever leftover raw vegetable cuttings you have: i use ends of carrots, some cauliflower
parsley, about a handful
a medium sized tomato, quartered
about 6 juniper berries, dried
about 6 pimento berries, dried
about 20 black peppercorns
2 cloves, dried
sea salt to taste

In the large soup pot add the carcasses and bones and cover with filtered cold water. Make sure the bones are under about an inch of water. Add the apple cider vinegar and cover, and leave for an hour. Don't turn on the heat yet.
After an hour or so, turn the heat under the pot on and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat until the liquid is just simmering. With a slotted spoon take off any scum and foam that floats on the surface. After about 4 hours of simmering, add all the other ingredients save for the salt. Leave to simmer for another 8 or so hours, or longer. I tend to switch mine off before I go to sleep and switch on again the next morning. I've found that simmering for up to 24 hours but with a minimum of 8 hours gives nice results. Once you deem the broth ready (just taste it), sieve out all the debris (bones, vegetables, spices) and add the salt to taste. Once the salt is incorporated, you can divide the broth in portions, leave to cool and store. The broth keeps for about 5 days in the fridge, and months in the freezer.

I use this as a base for many soups.



I'm making a courgette or broccoli dinner-soup on Tuesday, so I'll post a recipe and some pictures of the result. 

xxx C.


Friday, 15 August 2014

Natural skincare: my routine and favourite products

Another week has gone by without posting, time flies when you're busy!

We've been building a raised garden bed so we can enjoy lots of home grown veggies next year. Once it's finished I'll dedicate a post to the whole building, filling and planting of raised beds.

Here's a picture of the frame so far:












Now for my facial skincare routine...

Since changing to all natural cosmetics, I've been trying out lots of products. I still change between products, depending on what my skincare needs are at the time.

First of all, I have dry, sensitive skin with a lightly oily t-zone and very rarely do I get spots.
For cleansing I generally cleanse in the evening and use the oil cleansing method: with an oil of your choice gently 'wash' your face and then using a soft towel that is wet with warm water give yourself a 'steam' bath. You lay the towel over your face, wait a little while and softly rub your face once and rinse and repeat untill the dirt is on the towel and not your face. Then a final rinse with cold water and you're squeaky clean and your skin is cared for. It's a really deep clean without harsh rubbing or using harsh soaps. Works a like a dream on my skin.

When I have an eczema outbreak on my skin, I use coconut oil for oil cleansing and moisturising.



When I have clear skin, I use my own blended oil cleanser: 1/4 castor oil, 1/4 apricot kernel oil and 1/2 olive oil. This is when my skin behaves normally. For travelling I got a trial sized bottle of jojoba oil from Primavera, and as this bottle closes better than the plastic one with my own blend, it's saver putting into my beauty bag. Sometimes, when the mood strikes I use Martina Gebhart Shea Butter cleanser, it's a lovely lotion cleanser, and I rub this all over my face and remove with a soft towel and afterwards I rinse my face with water. 

After hard work and lots of sweating and grime (working in the garden does this), I sometimes use Dr Bronner's Magic Soap in Neutral-Mild (unfragranced) diluted 10 times in water as a face wash. I do moisturise extra after, as even diluted this much it tends to dry out my skin a little.

I bought lots of the turquoise face towels: I can use a new one every day and only have to wash them once every two weeks. I wash them at 60 degrees with a Sodasan detergent that is unfragranced. 



After cleansing, whether it's morning or night, I like using a toner of some kind on my face. Depending on my mood and skin appearance, I change between rose water, orange flower water and witch hazel water. I bought empty pump diffuser bottles, so I have I just finished my bottle of YUULI Metamorphic Elixir, which is really expensive but so, so nice. I'm definitely getting this again. In fact, I just got paid, so I'm placing an order with Amazingy right after posting here! The facial mist is amazing: it is moisturising, so perfect for an oil free night care regime and for people with oily skin for during the day. I find it really calms the skin, gives a wonderful glow and really improves the general appearance of the skin over time.



After toning, I then layer my care products. Every morning and night, I use Dr Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel, which is lovely and gentle, and clears up any eczema flare ups I have. (Especially when I moisturise with coconut oil after, it's a magical combination for my skin.) This is all the skin care I do in the evening, I don't use any oily products over night, which seems to have improved the general feel and look of my skin.
In the morning, I do what takes my fancy: I either use Dr. Alkaitis Organic Nourishing Treatment Oil, Pai Rosehip Oil (DO NOT USE IN THE SUN) and depending on the sunshine add a suncare product over the oil once it's gone into the skin. Especially with the Pai Rosehip oil I tend to use the SPF 30 if I know I'm going to be outside for longer than walking from my car to the office. Otherwise I use SPF 15. 

For lip care, I love the Weleda Everon lip care stick. I love the smell, the consistency and the care it gives! I don't need lip care every day. Normally once we get to the colder months I tend to use it.



So that's my skincare routine. I'm not super consistent, but tend to cleanse my face in the evening and only splash with water in the morning. One consistent thing is always the Dr Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel, I love this a lot. And once I have the YUULI Metamorphic Elixir again, I guess I'll use that regularly too. Everything else really depends on my mood and the condition of my skin.


In the spring BioBox delivery I got this Arnica Gel Cool Lavender from Go&Home. I was initially a little annoyed and couldn't imagine using it at all, but that all changed in the last month: We got mosquitoes! And this gel is wonderful at keeping mosquitoes at bay and for reducing swelling and itchyness from mosquito bites! It now lives on my nightstand, so I have it at hand before I go to sleep. I rub a little onto my arms and legs and since then I've not had a bite. And mosquitoes love me.... 


Next post I'll report about some hair care findings, and I'll post a homemade courgette soup recipe...

xxx, C.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Recipe: Spicy chorizo and zucchini tomato sauce

We've been harvesting zucchinis and tomatoes like crazy lately. All that nice warm weather with plenty of sunshine and a bit of rain does the vegetables good!

Combine the harvest with the souvenirs we brought back from Barcelona and you have a great dinner!

Yesterday I made a nice pasta/rice/whatever sauce with what we had in the fridge and the garden, and we both really enjoyed it. So here's the recipe:


Spicy Chorizo and Zucchini Tomato keto sauce

Ingredients:
serves 4 fairly hungry people

1 tablespoon coconut oil, butter or any kind of frying fat you prefer
1 medium sized onion, chopped fine
4 medium sized, very ripe tomatoes, or 2 large very ripe tomatoes, cut into small cubes
2 medium sized zucchinis, cut into cubes
2/3 spicy chorizo sausage, cut into small cubes (take skin off first!)
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup plain cream cheese
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 sprig rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 handful celery leaves, chopped fine
1/2 handful chopped lovage leaves
1/2 handful basil ripped fine (chopping reduces the flavour, so rip them; they will have more flavour)
salt and pepper to taste


Instructions:
In a large pot or pan heat the fat of your choice and add the onions. Reduce to medium heat and fry until glazed. Then add the chorizo cubes and fry on high for a few minutes. Keep stirring, burnt chorizo is not nice! Add the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. Once the chorizo is evenly fried on all sides, get the zucchini and add to the pot. Stir well and fry on high for a few minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for a minute or so. Add the chopped tomatoes. Reduce heat and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes. At this time cook the rice, pasta or whatever you want to eat your chorizo dish with. Add the pressed garlic to your chorizo veggie pot and the cream cheese and stir well until properly mixed. Simmer for another 3 minutes. Remove the hard stalks of the rosemary and thyme and fish out the bay leaf. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You will hardly need anything, it's quite strong tasting already!) When you are ready to serve, add the creme fraiche and fresh herbs and stir in quickly. Now you are ready for spicy deliciousness!

Serve over pasta, rice, fried potatoes, or like I did with shirataki noodles and enjoy! For extra indulgence you could add a little grated manchego cheese or parmesan....


I love the bright vibrant colours of the dish, it tastes the way it looks: happy and fun!

xxx C.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Sunscreens: what works in natural cosmetics?

So sorry for the late, late post! I've been playing catch up at work and at home we started a new project: building a raised bed for our veggies next year. Very exciting, but it's more work than we initially anticipated.
I'll definitely dedicate a post to the whole build and all the work around it once we are ready!

Anyway, today is all about sun care. I tried a few sunscreens in the natural cosmetics sector and found a brand that I so far like a lot. And when you find something that you like and it works, well you stick with it!

So without further delay I present to you Eco Cosmetics!  




The Eco Cosmetics sunscreens are really good and in the picture above you can see which products I currently have in use. The ingredients are limited, no thousand incomprehensible components, no parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates, silicons, synthetic sunscreens, or nanoparticles. The main sunscreen they use in their products are titanium dioxide and for some products karanja oil. For the rest nice and caring oils and plant extracts and waxes. They don't cover you in a white sheen like some mineral sun screens and they are pretty economical in their use, so although the aren't the cheapest products around, they last quite a while.

I use sunscreen on my face every day, especially since I've had some moles removed and a pre-cancerous spot on my nose treated. So I usually use the green Eco Cosmetics face cream that contains SPF 15. This is a tinted lotion, goes on lightly and does not take too long to sink into the skin. The colour is suitable for everyone, as it really blends in well and does not add or take away much from the natural skin tone. It is a light enough product to wear under make up or on its own. A little goes a long way and so far I've not had any issues at all when using this product on my face.

If I know I'm going to be out in the sun I use the Eco Cosmetics SPF 30 face gel, on the left of the face cream. It's thicker and feels and looks like a yellow/gold oil. It goes on quite easily, but here a little goes a long way too and it takes longer to really settle on the skin without looking like an oil slick. I use less than one pump and that is enough for my whole face and neck. It protects really well and does not have an unpleasant fragrance, reminiscent somewhat of unripe peaches.

At the beginning of summer I used the tinted SPF 30 cream. Especially my legs look whiter than white so this is a bit of help when you want to wear shorts but not scare the little children in your neighbourhood! It is quite thick, but spreads nicely and gives a very light hint of colour. Watch out for stains when wearing lighter clothing as it is mineral based it will rub off! This cream works really well and I like its protection. No sunburn, and at the end of the day still a hint of colour even though I don't sit out in the sun on purpose.

For ease of use I bought the Sun Oil SPF 30, which has similar ingredients as the SPF 30 face gel, just a little more liquid. I really like this one, but if you are going to be bothered by the shine from the oil, I would sooner use the cream... This does not make you look white, purely because it's an oil and does not contain zinc oxide.

And finally on the far left, my SPF 50 lotion, which I use for days that I know I can't avoid being in the sun. I have to say it goes on quite easily and does not leave behind a too noticeable white film when you spread it well. Works a treat and so far I've found here that it is the nicest consistency and has served me very well on those extra sunny days when gardening work has to be done or when I was in Barcelona and could not avoid the midday sun.

Last but not least the lip balm SPF 30: It is useful and works well but I don't love the consistency. It's quite waxy and thick. But I only use it if I know I'm going to be in the sun. Otherwise I use my trusted Weleda Everon balm.


For after sun if I really need it I have a huge aloe vera plant at home. I just cut off a leaf, scrape out the gel and apply. Works a treat for almost any skin problem! Alternatively I really like the Soothing Gel Serum from Dr Alkaitis, it is a miracle in a bottle! I often use it straight after cleansing my face in the morning or in the evening. It is for the whole body, so not just used as a face care balm.

I have some Melvita Prosun to try out: still haven't gotten round to it, as I've not had or made the time! I bought some bodypeeling from Melvita too, and thought as a preparation for the selftanner I could scrub with the body scrub and then moisturise with the fragrance free Body Oil from Balm Balm and then the next day apply the Prosun... So far, no go!

For a nice glow I've been using the Melvita L'Or Bio, which I love! It gives a really nice natural shimmer and really smells like summer! Very nice and coconutty! Definitely worth investing in, as it lasts forever because a little goes a really long way. Also suitable for face and hair. It's a dry oil, so you don't look like an oil slick after applying. Not suitable to use as a sun screen of course, as it does not have SPF!


Here a quick picture of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona... Already a lot further in the build than last time when we visited Barcelona three years ago.



We really had a lovely time and of course came home with lots of delicious foods from the local market... The other day we had a dinner consisting of tapas, really nice and a little bit of Spain in our own back garden!


Next time I'll write up a little about my delicious chorizo garden vegetable pasta/rice/anything sauce and I plan to discuss my face care routine as well!

xxx C.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Natura dental care: a healthier way to clean teeth

My teeth are actually really good, I'm in my late thirties and I don't have any cavities or existing fillings. However my gums are troublesome, and I don't want to end up with gum disease so I'm taking steps to prevent this and stop/heal the current problems that I have.

I also tend to grind my teeth at night, especially when I am under stress during the day. Since last year I wear a teeth guard for that, but it seems the first one is now at its last legs: I've ground a hole in it on one side already!

I have been using natural toothpastes for quite some time now. I think I started using a brand called Parodontax years ago. I was having problems with my gums, and needed a good toothpaste. My dentist at the time recommended it. At first its salty taste horrified me, and I could just about keep myself from being sick. I persisted however, and grew to love this toothpaste. It is mainly salt and herbal extracts and minerals but one thing that I don't like in there is glycerin. Glycerin prevents your teeth from remineralising naturally.
So about a year ago I ditched my Parodontax and went on the search for a glycerin free, fluoride free natural toothpaste.
I made a few myself, but have found buying one to be a bit more convenient and they certainly taste better than homemade tooth powder!

So here's for my dental routine:

I tend to floss when I think about doing it, which is about twice a week. I know, I should do it every day! I also own a Waterpik and tend to do that a couple of times a week with a salt water solution. I dissolve natural seasalt in water and use that in the container instead of just regular water. It is said to be better that way. As I don't do this often enough, I can't really tell you whether it is better!

I brush my teeth with activated charcoal powder once a week, to get stains off and for a deep cleanse. It sounds horrible, looks quite awful, but it works wonders!

I also like oil pulling, and use coconut oil for this. I used to do this every day, but I now only do it in the morning and evening when I notice I'm coming down with something. It tends to stop colds in its tracks for me.

I use a sonic toothbrush, but I've read somewhere that they aren't that great for people with sensitive gums (me) so I'm looking in to using the Bass toothbrushes and brushing technique. I've ordered the Heal thy Mouth set from OraWellness to see if this is as great as everybody keeps telling me. More on that once I've got this and have started using it for a bit.
I brush my teeth in the morning and evening and scrape my tongue too, to get rid of lingering bacteria that can cause tartar and cavities.

Right now, I use the Lavera Basis Sensitiv toothpaste, and I love it. Nothing funny in there and no glycerin or fluoride either!


Next week, I'll talk about self tanners and sunscreen...
And I'm going to post a recipe for summery stuffed peppers.

xxx C.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Gardening: a new hobby

Since we moved to the house we live in now and have this great big garden, I've discovered I actually like gardening.
I think that because I only lived in appartments with balconies before, the gardening bug didn't have time to infect me!


Now we only need some good weather and we're good to go!

Our dog loves the garden too, and demands lots of entertainment involving squeaky toy throwing, ball throwing, hunting for dog biscuits and rolling in the grass...


We even got a spot with natural shade during the day and where there's evening sunshine. Great for cosy evenings with a nice cold G&T!











We hung lots of chinese lanterns in the tree next to the terrace and added solar lights around the garden, for summer evenings outside.

My boyfriend built a wooden terrace enclosure where we can put flowerpots in the top part, so it gives a sense of privacy when we are eating outside.






I got 5 birdhouses for my birthday from my boyfriend, which adds colour to the garden.
This year there are no occupants, but I'm hoping that next year we will have 'rented out' at least one of the houses to a bird family.






My boyfriend also used his genious to build me a herb rack next to the kitchen door, so I have fresh herbs at my fingertips...

It's a really great way of growing herbs, and most of them are perennial, some just annual, so I can make sure that aside from the regular favourites I can try out new kinds of herbs each season.


On the other side of the rack we have got our mediterranean herbs in pots and they seem to have flourished since planting them over a year ago.
We found the sage underneath our hedge, planted randomly, so we dug it out and put it in a pot and now it seems much happier.








Last year we started also with some fruits and vegetables and had strawberries (they were all eaten by birds, I think I got to eat two in total), red peppers and tomatoes.

This year we are growing a few more veggies, and we've decided to add a raised vegetable bed to our garden next year, so we can try our hand at even more!







The tomatoes here aren't ripe yet, but it's going to be a fantastic harvest!



We've already been able to enjoy a few cherry tomatoes though!



The red bell peppers are taking a while to get started, but we've got tons of potential fruits now.

Cucumbers on the left need a bit more time, but the radishes in the middle are going to be eaten this weekend. The courgettes (zucchinis) are in need of a new container, they are getting huge already, hopefully we'll have a good harvest here too.

We also bought two lemon trees, but I'm not sure how they will do in our climate. So far we've got plenty of starting fruits, and lots of new blossoms, so here's to hope!






Since we haven't grown our own salad this year, I tend to buy organic lettuce of some kind and add lots of our home grown herbs. My favourite salad dressing is one inspired by Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.


Recipe for the ultimate salad dressing

Ingredients to dress a large salad for 4 persons:
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of organic creme fraiche
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and pour over your salad, mix well and enjoy! The dressing keeps for up to three days in the refrigerator.
I find this dressing goes really well with most salads, but my favourite is lambs lettuce or romaine.

Next post will be on natural dental care, which I hope to post at some point next week.

xxx C

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Natural haircuts: my first-time experience at a natural hairdresser

I am abundantly posting today, probably because I didn't post last week!

This weekend we visited my boyfriend's brother and sister in law in Cologne and whilst we were there I managed to get an appointment at Just Nature for a haircut. Just nature is not only a hairdresser's but also a natural cosmetics store.

I really needed a haircut, my hair was getting quite long (which is what I want) but also looked like it had been nibbled on by rodents! All thin and shapeless at the ends, it really didn't look good anymore.

I gave the hairdresser (very lovely guy, he's a master hairdresser, so he has many years of experience) a simple brief: please cut my hair into a style that's not too out there (I hate 'modern' haircuts) and something where I can just wash and go.

First he really took his time to find out what I wanted, and then I had my hair and scalp brushed. He massaged some Hauschka neem oil into my scalp and then my hair was washed whilst I was lying on a bed. Very comfortable. He used John Masters mint shampoo, which made my scalp tingle nicely. The hairdresser really observed how my hair falls and then started cutting my hair. A lot came off! I now have my hair jaw length and layered, and I really can wash and go! I haven't had a bad hair day since I left there last Friday!

I also left the shop with a few things: John Masters shampoo, a new boar bristle brush, some neem hair water from Hauschka, a trial size peppermint Dr. Bronner's liquid soap, a face mask and new courage with my great new haircut!

If you happen to be in Cologne and you want to visit the shop, its on the Ehrenstrasse number 40. You do need to make hairdressing appointments in advance, but browsing the shop is already more than worth it. They have a great selection of natural cosmetics.

XX, C.